Antwerp Port Creating Additional Space
With growth of 5.9% the port of Antwerp has got off to a strong start in 2015. In terms of container handling (in TEU) Antwerp even achieved growth of 9.5% in the first three months of this year. The 2M alliance of MSC and Maersk which last year opted resolutely for Antwerp is of course not unconnected with these growth figures. During the next few months preparations will be finalised for transfering the activities of the MSC shipping company – currently operating in the Delwaide dock on the right bank area of the port – to the Deurganck dock on the left bank of the Scheldt. This dock with its annual capacity of 11 million TEU will enable MSC to further develop its activities. However, according to the latest forecasts Antwerp will need to have new container handling capacity as of 2020-2021. The Port Authority is therefore already making preparations for a new, large tidal dock with matching terminal capacity on the left bank.
Saeftinghe Development Area
The port of Antwerp has a development area of more than 1,000 hectares available on the left bank which is expected to enter operation in phases. The Port Authority plans for the first phase of the Saeftinghe dock to be operational as of 2021, with 1,400 m of quay and a minimum capacity of 5.1 million TEU. The costs for this first phase of the dock are estimated at 660 million euros. For Antwerp, the second-largest port in Europe, being able to accommodate the long-term growth of shipping companies is essential. “We operate in an international, competitive environment where maintaining a top position is a daily challenge, not something to be taken for granted,” says Luc Arnouts, Chief Commercial Officer of the Port Authority. It is not yet clear when the second phase of the Saeftinghe dock, which ultimately will be more than 4 km long, will enter operation. “The Port Authority aims for controlled expansion of capacity,” explains Arnouts. “This means in practice that we have to keep a very close watch on the market, and not simply throw more capacity onto the market if there is no demand for it. We were already prepared to offer the Saeftinghe Development Area on the market in 2008, but in view of the timing – right on the edge of the worldwide economic crisis – we put the project on hold.”
In addition to construction of the first phase of the Saeftinghe dock the project also includes the development of non-maritime zones and backquay terminal areas.
The MSC shipping company is due to shift its operations in Antwerp from one bank of the Scheldt to the other at the beginning of 2016. In the meantime the Port Authority issued a Call for Proposals at the end of last year to discover what interest there might be in taking over the concession in the Delwaide dock that will be freed up by the move. Various project proposals were submitted by candidates and examined by the Port Authority. The Port Authority board of directors announced on the evening of Monday, 4 May that it would open exclusive negotiations with the Saudi Arabian company Energy Recovery Systems (ERS) for the southern and northern sides of the concession, representing an area of 150 hectares. ERS proposes to use the site to set up a new production unit for “green” ammonia and urea, representing an investment of 3.7 billion euros. The plant will provide employment for 900 people. The Port Authority now has the task of negotiating further with the company with a view to making a concession agreement. More news is expected in the next few months.
Churchill Industrial Zone
The Churchill Industrial Zone is situated just a stone’s throw from the Delwaide dock. Until a few years ago the 88 hectare site accommodated a General Motors car assembly plant. When GM decided to shut down its activities in Antwerp the Port Authority initiated a procedure to acquire this valuable site. In the middle of last year an agreement was made under which the Port Authority became the owner. In viewcourtesyvof the unique nature of the site, located in the heart of the port and with multimodal access, the Port Authority preferred to seek an industrial investor who would make use of the full area. A worldwide Call for Proposals was issued in mid-October 2014. Since this has so far not produced suitable results, the Port Authority recently decided to extend the search for an integral industrial use for the site by a further two years.